Alumna’s voyage has included stops in anthropology, consulting, and writing

March 4, 2024 — There are plenty of book workshops out there for writers. But Amy Goldmacher ’96 is planning a book work-ship. 

A book coach, writer, and anthropologist, Goldmacher is holding a Craft & Publishing Voyage aboard the Queen Mary 2 this spring while it crosses the Atlantic Ocean.

Over the last decade, Goldmacher and her husband, Joseph Yaker, have enjoyed several cruise ship trips. But on her last cruise, Goldmacher went alone for the first time. This experience brought about the idea of a cruise writing workshop.

Amy Goldmacher ’96
   Amy Goldmacher ’96

“It was a gift to myself so I could spend time writing as opposed to vacationing,” she explains. She discovered through this solo writing retreat that she was able to stay focused on her art, “emerging only for food and occasional strolls on the decks for fresh air.” 

Goldmacher’s interest in literature dates back to her days as a Grinnell student, but it was another field that drew her attention in high school. “I was interested in human behavior, so I knew anthropology would be the perfect major,” she says. 

When Goldmacher learned about Grinnell from a visiting admission representative; she was hooked. “I fell in love with the school and applied sight unseen.” As an undergraduate, she immersed herself in anthropology under the mentorship of her advisor Jon Andelson ’70

The Grinnell experience for Goldmacher did not disappoint. “I loved being able to throw myself into living on a campus,” she recalls. “I remember feeling like Grinnell was such an intellectual adventure.” Coming from a Waldorf high school with a class of only 20, Goldmacher found her horizon expanding exponentially at Grinnell. “I felt like the world was opening up to me both intellectually and socially.” 

Her passion for the written word has never waned, and she’s discovered unique ways to scratch that itch throughout her career. 

After college, Goldmacher’s first job was with an academic publishing company. “I loved being engaged with books and wanted to become an editor working with authors and shepherding books to publication.” She started as an editorial assistant and moved into marketing and then sales, the traditional path to becoming an editor. As a sales representative, she noticed she was solving problems using the tools she had learned in her anthropology courses. 

“I became interested in looking at modern, complex organizations in our culture,” she says. She discovered the niche of business anthropology and soon was accepted to Wayne State in Detroit which housed the only Ph.D. program in this academic area.

Michigan became Goldmacher’s home for more than two decades. “I ended up meeting my husband there,” she says. “I’ve lived on both coasts but always felt more at home in the Midwest.” 

Goldmacher writes a desk from her cruise room.
Goldmacher used her last cruise as a personal writing retreat. It brought about the idea for the writing workshop on water.

In 2013, Goldmacher started her own consulting business as a workplace anthropologist, doing qualitative and ethnographic research interviewing and observing individuals and groups and then discovering actionable patterns in the resulting data. She would often work as a temporary team member helping organizations understand product and software design issues and how to better serve users. 

While she loved the challenge of this consulting work, Goldmacher began tapering off in 2019 when she sensed a burning urge to write. With a background in academic writing, she wanted to move into the realm of creative nonfiction, so she took online classes and started writing more prolifically on a variety of topics. 

When Goldmacher was a student at Grinnell, her father died of cancer. She has worked through her grief in various ways through her writing, most recently through a memoir she is currently working on. In 2022, an excerpt of this piece won the AWP Kurt Brown Prize in Creative Nonfiction. 

Amy Goldmacher ’96 aboard the Queen Mary 2 this spring.
   Goldmacher ’96 aboard the
   Queen Mary 2 this spring.

Goldmacher’s experiences writing and publishing a memoir, co-writing and publishing an anthropology textbook, and working in the publishing industry provide the backdrop for her current work as a nonfiction book and proposal coach, assisting others in learning the ins and outs of getting their works written and published. “Most people don’t know that nonfiction books are sold on proposal,” she explains. “This is something a lot of writers need help with. You need to write the proposal to help you figure out the book.” 

During the cruise, Goldmacher will lead sessions for other writers, joining a slate of her own mentors, teachers, and literary citizens – Jane Friedman, Allison K Williams, and Dinty W. Moore. She’s excited that other writers will have this opportunity to be able to spend time focusing on their craft. 

Goldmacher doesn’t get back to Grinnell often; she’s attended two Reunions, one on campus and one virtually, and stayed on campus while riding RAGBRAI in 2008. 

Still, Grinnell remains prominent in Goldmacher’s life through the friends she keeps in touch with from her time as a student. In addition, she partakes in a writing group evolved from the alumni Facebook group, Everyday Class Notes (ECN). “I love having a community of people from Grinnell who also write, because we can ask each other for advice and feedback,” she says. “Having writing in common with other alums is super valuable.”

— by Melanie Drake ’92

For your information

Learn more about Amy Goldmacher’s book coaching on her website.

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